Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that Kevin Harvick will compete in his final NASCAR All-Star Race using the car number that started his Cup Series career, switching from his current No. 4 back to No. 29 for the May 21 invitational that marks the circuit’s return to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.
The news comes ahead of Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Harvick won in just his third Cup Series start on March 11, 2001. His emotional victory there came just three weeks after replacing the iconic Dale Earnhardt after his death in the Daytona 500. His Richard Childress Racing team quickly promoted him from the Xfinity Series ranks and changed the team’s car number from the No. 3 that Earnhardt made famous to No. 29.
Harvick’s No. 29 Ford for the All-Star Race will feature a retro design that pays tribute to his first win from 22 years ago at Atlanta. His sponsor, Busch Light, will also revert to period-correct branding on the car’s hood and fenders.
“When I sat in the 29 for the first time, it really wasn’t by choice, but I definitely wouldn’t have done it any differently,” Harvick said in a news release from his SHR team. “Dale’s passing changed our sport forever, and it changed my life forever and the direction it took. Looking back on it now, I realize the importance of getting in the Cup car, and then I wound up winning my first race at Atlanta in the 29 car after Dale’s death. The significance and the importance of keeping that car on the race track and winning that race early at Atlanta – knowing now what it meant to the sport, and just that moment in general of being able to carry on – was so important.”
Harvick announced in the offseason that this Cup Series campaign would be his last. He’s set to join the FOX Sports broadcasting team after the season.
The 47-year-old driver spent the first 13 seasons of his Cup Series career with Childress, scoring 23 of his 60 career victories in RCR’s No. 29. Harvick joined Stewart-Haas in 2014 and has driven the No. 4 ever since.
The No. 29 has been out of Cup Series circulation since Harvick last drove it in the 2013 season finale, his final start for RCR. The Childress team brought back the No. 3 the following season, when Austin Dillon took over the seat.
In reviving his original car number, Harvick said that many of his earliest moments in NASCAR’s top series were also his most monumental.
“With this being my last year as a Cup Series driver, we wanted to highlight a lot of these moments, and many were made at RCR in that 29 car,” Harvick said. “So, with the All-Star Race going to North Wilkesboro – a place with a ton of history – we thought it made sense in a year full of milestones and moments to highlight where it all started.”
Harvick has competed in 22 editions of the All-Star Race, qualifying for the main event each year of his Cup Series career and winning twice (2007, 2018). This year’s non-points invitational will mark the first All-Star Race at the .625-mile North Wilkesboro track, which last hosted NASCAR’s top circuit in 1996.
The facility has undergone extensive renovations in advance of the All-Star Race, but with special care taken to preserve the track’s history and old-school feel.
“I don’t know the last time the All-Star Race was the most anticipated event of the season,” Harvick said. “Fans are going to show up in droves. North Wilkesboro is a great short track, the asphalt’s worn out, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic event.”
Harvick enters this weekend’s Ambetter Health 400 as the Cup Series points leader, with three top-10 finishes in four races this season. He is a three-time Atlanta winner, adding victories in 2018 and 2020 to his Cup Series breakthrough in 2001.